Jeff Manigold never expected to go to work Monday morning and uncover human bones while digging an irrigation ditch in Old Mission. But that’s exactly what happened.
While digging a ditch in a vineyard owned by former Detroit Piston Vinnie Johnson, directly south of the Old Mission General Store, Manigold noticed a bone in the dirt pile next to the ditch he was digging. It wasn’t until he picked it up that he knew it was probably a human femur bone.
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“I was trying to put in an irrigation line,” he said. “A couple of bones came up and I looked at them and realized one of them was a femur.”
There were other bones in the dirt pile, including what appeared to be a human skull. Manigold immediately called 911, and yesterday, personnel from the Michigan State Police Grayling Crime Laboratory, along with an archaeological team from Western Michigan University, were on the site.
The team recovered almost a complete skeleton, human in origin, along with remnants of a wood coffin and square nails. Photographs of the bones were sent to the the Medical Examiners Office at Western Michigan University, where they were examined and determined to be most likely human in origin.
It’s also speculated that the bones belong to a female, possibly 100 to 200 years old. It’s unclear whether the bones are Native American, and testing and carbon dating could take up to a month.
The recovered materials and bones remain in the custody of the Medical Examiners Office. It has also been determined that the bones are not related to any criminal activity.
Update, Sept. 8, 2018: We received a note today from Wendy S. Hirschenberger, MPH, CPHA, Health Officer; Grand Traverse County Health Department; Medical Examiner’s Office – Grand Traverse and Leelanau Counties. She asked us to remove the photos of the bones, which we have done. She notes:
The medical examiner’s office would never authorize the release of pictures of human remains. It is very disrespectful to the decedent, next of kin or any surviving relatives. The medical examiner’s office will be issuing a press release in the future once the forensic analysis is completed on the bones. That process can take 2-6 weeks. At this time we do not have any specific details of the gender, ethnicity, age or identification of the decedent.
Editor’s Note: This 5-acre parcel was purchased by my family in the 1960s, and was a cherry orchard during the entire time we owned it. We sold it several years ago to Vinnie Johnson, who planted a vineyard on it. The parcel was at one time owned by W.R. Stone, as noted on this Old Mission plat map circa late 1800s (click map for a larger view):